When Trains Ruled the Rockies

My Life at the Banff Railway Station

Reviewed by Brooke Campbell

Posted March 18, 2020

In his recent book When Trains Ruled the Rockies, Terry Gainer details every nook and cranny of the Banff Railway Station and its activities — from the different trains that came to Banff and their schedules to the beautiful rock garden decorating the station’s grounds. In doing this, he documents the important role the station played as a community hub in the small mountain town of Banff, Alberta.

Gainer first moved to Banff in 1948, when his father became the station agent. Their family lived in the residence above the station until 1955, and Terry Gainer eventually worked at the station during summers. He started as a porter in the baggage room and then worked as a redcap (railway porter) until 1962.

His personal experiences and memories of the time contribute to an intimate look at life in Banff during the mid-twentieth century. Gainer recounts some of the town’s major events and celebrations — such as the Banff Winter Carnival and the visits of royals — while also telling of everyday life growing up in Banff.

Yet the stories centre on the railway station, which acted as the main circuit board for everything (and everyone) that funnelled into and out of the town. As explained by Gainer, “The station was a distinct community, complete with the most popular coffee shop and the best gossip in town.”

His book, which includes both personal and archival photos, provides an entertaining and nostalgic look at a time “when trains ruled the Rockies.”

Buy this book from Chapters-Indigo

This article originally appeared in the April-May 2020 issue of Canada’s History.

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